I spent 2019 and 2020 serving on award juries, and as a result I read nothing but new SF, fantasy, and horror (in staggering quantities). This year, I eschewed all such responsibilities, and as a result my reading was more scattered, and included older books and lots of work outside the genres we’re covering here. I feel less informed about the field as a whole than I did in my ...Read MoreRead more
I was on not one but two award juries in 2020. I told myself it was reasonable because there was a lot of overlap in the potential nominee pools, so it wouldn’t be that much extra reading. I didn’t count on 2020 being a year of unusual strain and psychic deterioration, which increased the difficulty of reading, thinking, making critical judgments, and really doing anything that required executive function. Still, ...Read MoreRead more
Most years I read a fair bit of science fiction and fantasy, but the majority of my pleasure reading tends to be mystery and crime (I don’t write in those genres, so I can enjoy them without that otherwise inevitable layer of analysis). This year, though, I’m on an award jury covering speculative fiction, and as a result, I’ve read more widely and deeply in my home field than I ...Read MoreRead more
Wanderers, Chuck Wendig (Del Rey 978-0399182105, $28.99, 800pp, hc) July 2019.
My prior knowledge of Chuck Wendig came mostly from his blog and his amusingly profane social media presence – Wanderers is the first novel of his I’ve read. It won’t be the last.
The premise is pure narrative candy: people in rural Pennsylvania begin to sleepwalk, heading west. At first there’s just one walker, but she’s soon joined ...Read MoreRead more
The Luminous Dead, Caitlin Starling (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-284690-7, $16.99, 415pp, tp) April 2019.
One of my favorite movies is Neil Marshall’s The Descent (2006), about a group of women who enter an unexplored cave system and discover unspeakable subterranean horrors – so when I say Caitlin Starling’s The Luminous Dead is like a science fiction version of The Descent, but even more claustrophobic and harrowing, recognize it as ...Read MoreRead more
The People’s Republic of Everything, Nick Mamatas (Tachyon 978-1-61696-300-2, $15.95, 336pp, tp) September 2018.
Nick Mamatas is one of my favorite story writers, mostly because I never know what I’m going to encounter under his byline: satirical SF, black-hearted noir, sly historical reimaginings, clear-eyed twists on the Lovecraft mythos, open calls for revolution, leftist politics (and critiques thereof), and weirder things. His latest collection, The People’s Republic of Everything ...Read MoreRead more
My reading was weird and scattered this year even by my usual weird-and-scattered standards, and the Goodreads shelf I’ve labeled “comfort re-reads” has a lot more entries than usual, as I retreated from the various unpleasant aspects of this year’s reality into old, beloved fictional worlds. I wasn’t sure I’d read enough new SF, fantasy, and horror to even justify a year-end round-up this time, but going over my list ...Read MoreRead more
I didn’t read much new SF and fantasy this year. I spent a lot of time being anxious for reasons outside the scope of this essay (cough politics cough), and in times like that, I tend to revisit old beloved books, so I spent some time returning to works by Connie Willis, and Terry Pratchett, and Joe Abercrombie (I know, Lord Grimdark might seem an odd choice for comfort reading, ...Read MoreRead more
I Am Providence, Nick Mamatas (Night Shade 978-1597808354, $15.99, 256pp, tp) August 2016.
In recent years Nick Mamatas has moved away from the horror, SF, and experimental fiction fields in order to write more crime fiction, including the 2013 novel Love Is the Law. I was afraid, if this trend continued, that I wouldn’t be able to justify reviewing his books for Locus anymore. That time may yet
The Spider’s War, Daniel Abraham (Orbit 978-0316204057, $16.00, 526pp, tp) March 2016.
Daniel Abraham has gotten a lot of attention lately, but mostly as half of the writing team James S.A. Corey (with Ty Franck). Their popular Expanse space opera is one of my favorite SF series, but it does tend to overshadow the equally good and quite different fantasy saga Abraham writes solo, the Dagger and the Coin.
I said nice things in these pages a while back about Darin Bradley’s debut novel Noise, an ambitious book about a slow-motion apocalypse, with economic collapse triggering a breakdown of order in the United States, and young people trying to forge a new and brutal system of morality and pragmatism that would allow them to survive the aftermath. I mention that novel because his follow-up Chimpanzee is, while not
Alan DeNiro’s second collection Tyrannia and Other Renditions is even stranger and more ambitious than his 2006 debut Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead. DeNiro prefers hard questions to easy answers, and his stories eschew neat resolutions and tidy explanations, but while he makes liberal use of surrealism and absurdity, there’s usually a rigorous structure underneath, whether it’s carefully thought-out thematic underpinnings or complex SFnal worldbuilding. DeNiro
You’ve got to love a literary novel that starts with the protagonist shooting Hitler in the heart in 1930.
Kate Atkinson is best known for her marvelous literary mysteries, notably the Jackson Brodie novels. While I eagerly await the next installment in that series, I was pleased to pick up her new standalone, Life After Life, and even more delighted when I realized it has a speculative premise. Apart
Daniel Polansky’s debut novel Low Town is hardboiled fantasy, taking the structure of a noir crime novel and setting it not in the mean streets of our world but in a fantasy universe. The closest analogue that comes to mind is Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse series, which transforms the wisecracking private investigator into a freelance ‘‘sword jockey’’ in a magical world. Polansky’s novel is darker, however, and centers on a
Sensation by Nick Mamatas is a political satire and a meditation on the nature of reality reminiscent of Philip K. Dick, exploring the secret history of an age-old war between a hive-mind of hyperintelligent spiders and their implacable mindless enemies, a species of parasitic wasp. (The entirety of human history is either driven by that war or incidental to it.)
The main character – only occasionally ‘‘heroine’’ – is Julia
TIM PRATT, Senior Editor, co-edited ‘zine Flytrap with Heather Shaw from 2004 to 2008 and edited anthologies Sympathy for the Devil and Rags and Bones (with Melissa Marr). His first collection, Little Gods, was published in 2003, and his first novel, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, was published in 2005. Collection Hart & Boot & Other Stories was a World Fantasy Award finalist, and he won a ...Read MoreRead more
Mira Grant is a pseudonym for writer Seanan McGuire, who made a splash with last year’s debut novel Rosemary and Rue, about a half-Fae detective. As Grant she writes about zombies instead of fairies, but calling her a horror writer wouldn’t be particularly accurate. Feed is more of a sociological science fiction novel, intelligently extrapolating the future trajectory of a world where the dead begin to rise and attempt
The Wolf Age is the third book in James Enge’s inventive and delightful sword and sorcery series following the adventures and misfortunes of larger-than-life hero Morlock Ambrosius. The novel stands alone quite well, though – in fact, I read this volume first, and promptly tracked down the earlier titles, Blood of Ambrose and This Crooked Way, because I enjoyed this one so much.
It takes a certain amount of